Sunday Morning ~ Door to Door
October 21, 2018
I spent yesterday afternoon canvassing for the democratic candidate for the House of Representatives in my district (Jared Golden, by the way. If you live in Maine’s second district, vote for him). I couldn’t believe I was doing it, having never imagined I’d have the guts. Going door to door intimidates me, or did. I guess I imagined people don’t want anyone stopping in and interrupting their day. I feared doors being slammed in my face, and after my experience last week, I was paranoid. This house race is important. It could mean taking over from the zombies and restoring some semblance of humanity to our government. We could flip a seat and if I could do anything at all to help, I wanted to. I needed to. If we don’t recover the house, I would never have forgiven myself for not knocking on doors and begging people to vote. I would have thought it was all my fault.
So the experience was more fun than I’d expected. It’s a rural area and finding houses was a challenge, but generally, people were receptive and willing to talk. Of course, this is what we were told would happen, but I didn’t believe it. I’m reformed. Plus, it was neat to see all the hidden neighborhoods and landscaping. I loved that. I’ve gotta say, I’m intrigued by where people place their doors. I am very interested in doors. I find it curious that at some houses I had to search for the door! Like it wasn’t clear which way to go to get into the house. Many of the doors looked like they hadn’t been opened in decades. Some were obvious, as in, there was a path that led to an actual entrance as I always thought was standard, but really, nothing says “don’t come in” like not being able to find a door! Lots of people were out working in their gardens; they were happy to chat. Most agreed that change was needed and that gave me a shot of optimism, but I know I live in a bubble here. Much of the northern part of this state is conservative, intent on voting against their own best interests. I am praying the money being funneled into the dipshit we have now, is a waste. We need to win this. We have to.
I went to church this morning for the first time since I’ve been home and arrived with twenty seconds to spare. I took my seat in the front pew on the left side of the center aisle. My family used to fill that pew, all seven of us, tumbling in just as mass was starting. It was usually empty; a lot of people don’t like to sit in the front, for reasons I don’t understand. We learned early on with little kids, if they only see the coats in front of them, they get bored more quickly than necessary. So we always sat in the front. It made for drama occasionally, like when Jake threw up, or when Jordan slipped and hit his chin, but most of the time, it worked well.
The church was sparsely populated today. My first time back, I was looking forward to seeing my friends. It’s a phenomenon here, making friends at church. That’s not really a Catholic thing. We don’t usually meet people to socialize with at church, even though we may see the same faces each week. Friendships that blossom outside the structure–– it always seemed that was a protestant thing. But here I have a real church community. I like it.
I noticed right away that Joe, our deacon, was sitting alone and wondered if his wife had passed away. She hadn’t been well for a long time. The organist was playing familiar tunes, and I looked at her and tried to calculate her age. She has to be nearing a hundred years old. On Christmas Eve, many years ago, she and Matt played a duet: drums and violin. It was easier for her to bring her violin to our house than for Matt to move his whole drum set, so they practiced up in his grubby bedroom. She didn’t seem to even notice the chaos. I thought she was elderly then and it had to have been over twenty years ago. The music they made together was beautiful. It made me sad to think about it. I was so proud of the way he behaved and the respect he showed her. He was maybe fifteen and she maybe seventy (five?) but they were two musicians jamming together and enjoying it. We tape recorded it one day when they were practicing and sent it to Prairie Home Companion for their “Talent from Towns Under two-thousand” competition. It was really good. I personally thought they should have been chosen. I wonder how different Matt’s path would have been if they had.
The priest today was recycled from years ago (in fact, it may have been the same one who was here that Christmas). Back then he was angry and disagreeable. We couldn’t wait until he was transferred. But he had a different tone today, softer and kinder. I spent a lot of mass remembering who we were back when he was here before, an intact family who went to church every Sunday. Our kids were altar servers, Matt was a lecturer. I loved who we were.
Religious education was early in the morning, before mass. We carpooled with another family so we wouldn’t all have to go an hour early. On our Sundays to drive, we’d drop the kids and take our coffee to the beach a mile away. We’d read the paper and talk. It was such a wholesome existence. I was so happy with us.
I didn’t recognize a lot of people in church today. There are still lots of visitors, stretching the tourist season out way longer than I remember. I felt a bit needy. I was worried no one would notice I was back. I was nostalgic and weepy. At the offertory I was getting money out of my wallet when the basket was suddenly under my nose. It’s passer leaned forward and whispered, “Welcome Home”. I choked up. There was no sermon because the priest was sick with a cold. I was hoping he wouldn’t be the one on my side giving out communion, but he was. I had no choice, being in the front and first in line, but just decided to take an extra big swig of the wine to kill any germs. I went back to the pew and was kneeling with my head down and felt a firm hand on my shoulder. It was Joe, the deacon, walking up to communion, acknowledging me. I choked again. He was so good to my kids. He believed in all of them.
The mass ended with one of my favorite songs, “Sing to the Mountains, Sing to the Sea”. It always seemed to fit well in this simple little church where the long windows surrounding us give nature the center stage. I looked out to the lilac tree covered in dead blossoms and thought, “I need to prune that.” I used to make that a priority on yard clean-up day, but it doesn’t look like it’s been done since I left.
After mass, people gathered and chatted. Joe told me his wife had died a year ago. I choked, wishing I knew and could have sent some kind of condolence at the time, thinking how important that was to me when my mother died. I chatted with people I knew, happy they looked happy to see me. I thought of how we used to do that every Sunday and how the kids would get frustrated that we were taking so long to leave. I wondered how they remember that. A painful childhood memory, or one of those that bonds you to your siblings? In a good way?
We walked to our cars, waving goodbye, mentioning the weather. It was so comforting and sweet. I drove home, feeling lonelier than I wanted, listening to the puzzler on NPR, thinking how I’d never have predicted this is where my life would be right now, and that somehow gave me some hope for the future. We just don’t know.
Love to all,